Writing spaces are as varied as the individuals who occupy them. The range of “space” we enter for our writing practice is a wide, wild field from tidy to random, from Maya Angelou in a sparse hotel room to Marcel Proust in bed, from Jane Austen at the kitchen table to you: what does your writing space look like? Put a pencil to the page with MFA in fiction alumnus ('17) Angela DiLella.
Where do you write?
Usually at my desk, if I’m ready to commit things to a Word doc. Before that point, it’s wherever I have my journal or paper when I’ve got an idea. It’s a little messy, but I can’t work in a space that isn’t.
Stand, sit or other?
A little bit of everything: If I’m typing, I’m usually sitting at my desk. But when I’m figuring out what to write, I’m a pacer and often practice different lines or ideas, complete with gestures, movements, all that good stuff. I love it when nobody is home and I can just wander around doing my thing. It’s also helpful for figuring out realistic action and blocking. For example, the fridge is exactly six feet tall, so if I’m trying to figure out an interaction between a taller person and a shorter person (like myself), I can eyeball the proportions and figure out what a normal interaction would probably look like.
What is your writing practice?
I usually write things out in a journal or even do quick comic sketches in a journal and then transfer them onto a Word doc at some point (usually when I get annoyed with myself for procrastinating). If I have a good idea at work, I’ll write my ideas on a sticky note or even on the back of receipts (my bookmarks) and tape them into my journal at home. If I’m really jazzed about an idea like that, it goes right onto the doc when I get home.
What are your favorite procrastinations?
I play a lot of video games. Lately I’ve been playing a lot of Animal Crossing: New Horizons and Story of Seasons: Pioneers of Olive Town, which are two fairly relaxing games about building communities around your player, taking care of the land, crafting, and so on. When my brain needs a break, I draw for fun, too. It’s mostly rabbits, but fanart is also a fun way to keep my digital art skills sharp and learn about different features of the apps I rely on with no pressure attached.
I don’t watch a ton of TV, but I keep up with Puppet History and Tasting History With Max Miller on YouTube. I start a lot of shows on Netflix and Hulu, but I usually only end up sticking with documentary series all the way to the end.
We live in interesting times, which book/author keeps you sane/grounded?
While the lockdown was on, I mostly read nonfiction because it felt “safer.” There weren’t going to be any unexpected elements that were going to surprise me and stress me out more. At the same time, once the shock of being stuck at home dulled slightly, I dug into one of my favorites from elementary school, The Girl Who Owned a City by OT Nelson, which is set after a pandemic wipes out everyone over the age of 12, and is about what the kids left have to do to rebuild. My best friend from elementary school, who was in my book group for that book in fifth grade, also reread it at the same time and we bonded over it again. I guess it was sort of a “foxhole” thing for the both of us.
In general, a text I go back to when taxed is A Single Man by Christopher Isherwood. It’s about an older man adapting to life after his partner died unexpectedly--just one day in his life some time after the event. I find it tremendously comforting regardless of what exactly has me struggling, whether it was, in this case, a pandemic and lockdown and everything that has come with that, and with a handful of other things I’ve dealt with within the past eleven-ish years now. As the story goes, Isherwood had had a particularly nasty fight with his partner, and he walked out for a few months. To come to terms with it, Isherwood imagined that his partner had died, and the book came out of him dealing with it in that way. While that’s a pretty specific situation, it’s such an honest, personal look at what it is to be human and alive in this world that it works more generally too. It’s comforting to know that someone, at some point, was on your wavelength, especially if you’re a bit anxious about discussing these things with others. Incidentally, I don’t know how this compares to Isherwood’s other books; I’ve never had the guts to read them and see how they compare.
What is your new skill learned during the shutdowns of the Pandemic
If this is meant to be related to writing, my “new” skill would be getting myself to write in a journal regularly instead of immediately going to the computer. My diaries, journals, etcs were stolen, read, and shared around a lot when I was in grade school, so just opening a journal and putting my pencil to the page filled me with immense dread for a long time.
Outside of writing, I’ve just picked up a lot of small, weird handy skills around the house. Plumbing, cleaning, building, rabbit-proofing… I think my greatest achievement is that I finally learned how to use a hot glue gun without burning myself in the process.
What is your dream writing space?
This writing space is great, actually! I would like a better chair, but my rabbit finds comfy desk chairs too inviting. And then it’s a short hop from the chair to the desktop, to all my wonderful pens (great for throwing) and paintbrushes (great for chewing).
My desk is also in the guest/storage room, so a neater area around the desk would be nice, but that seems unlikely.
Angela DiLella is a Creative Writing Fiction alumnus, class of 2017. She’s a staff writer for the website Grave Reviews and a teacher's assistant at a middle school, and even manages to publish writing, comics, and illustrations once in a while! Her most recent creative publication was the comic “School Reunion” in Honey Literary’s second issue, and you can find her other work on Twitter @Shanksspeare.